Lucille Chung (credit: Lisa-Marie Mazzucco)

Lucille Chung plays an engaging, wide-ranging recital at Spivey Hall

Lucille Chung
February 19, 2023
Spivey Hall
Morrow, GA
Lucille Chung, piano.

Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART: Piano Sonata No. 17 in B♭ major, K. 570
Sergei PROKOFIEV: Piano Sonata No. 2 in D minor, Op. 14
György LIGETI: Études, Book 2, Nos. 11 & 10
Robert SCHUMANN: Fantasiestücke, Op. 12
Franz LISZT: Paraphrase on Verdi’s “Rigoletto,” S. 434

Mark Gresham | 22 FEB 2023

On Sunday afternoon, pianist Lucille Chung performed a recital at Spivey Hall featuring music by Mozart, Prokofiev, Ligeti, Schumann, and Liszt. She had last performed live at Spivey Hall on October 6, 2019, in a piano duo concert with Alessio Bax.

A native of Montréal, Canada, Chung was the First Prize winner of the 1989 Stravinsky International Piano Competition. She graduated from The Curtis Institute of Music and The Juilliard School before she turned 20. She subsequently studied in Europe and the U.S. with distinguished pianists such as Lazar Berman and Joaquín Achúcarro.

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For Sunday’s solo recital, Chung opened with Mozart’s Piano Sonata No. 17 in B♭ major, K. 570. The beginning of the “Allegro” first movement was deceptively sparse in texture but soon required nimble velocity from the pianist. Chung gave it that, along with lively lightness, clarity, and good attention to articulation. The “Allegretto” finale bubbled with conviviality.

She followed with Sergei Prokoviev’s Piano Sonata No. 2 in D minor, Op. 14, a work that inhabits a vast emotional range from lyrical Romanticism to brutal aggressiveness.

The Mozart and Prokofiev sonatas proved an intriguing pairing for the concert’s first half.

Chung certainly has the technical chops for the Prokofiev and for the two Études by György Ligeti which opened the recital’s second half: Nos. 11 and 10 (in that order), both from Book Two, which embraces Nos. 7 to 14 of the Études. Ligeti can be surprisingly lyrical, as in No. 11, while at the same time producing more contentious music in the set, such as No. 10, with its rapid pulsation between alternating hands. Chung has recorded the entire Book Two of these Études, and her technical facility delivered effortlessly in this selected pair of them as it did in the rest of the concert.

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The centerpiece of this latter half of the program was Robert Schumann’s Fantasiestücke, Op. 12, a set of eight pieces for piano inspired by Fantasiestücke in Callots Manier, a collection of writings by E. T. A. Hoffmann. Schumann invokes his fictional self-identities of Florestan and Eusebius (the passionate and dreamy sides of his personality) throughout, evoking varied atmospheres, which Chung deployed convincingly as a cohesive whole.

Her grand finale was Franz Liszt’s Paraphrase on Verdi’s “Rigoletto,” S. 434. Liszt used Verdi’s music, specifically the famous quartet, “Bella figlia dell’amore,” to write a colorful showpiece for piano with a virtuosic ending — for himself to play, of course. Although hardly “deep” music, it is tuneful and a lot of fun, especially in Chung’s capable hands.

Chung returned to the stage for a brief encore: No. 21 of Alexander Scriabin’s 24 Preludes, Op. 11.


About the author:
Mark Gresham is publisher and principal writer of EarRelevant. he began writing as a music journalist over 30 years ago, but has been a composer of music much longer than that. He was the winner of an ASCAP/Deems Taylor Award for music journalism in 2003.